Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Challenge of Ethnicity in the Church: What St Paul Says

From today's epistle read:

The Reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans 11:13-24

BRETHREN, I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to
the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous,
and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of
the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough
offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump; and if the root is holy,
so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a
wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the
olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember it is not
you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say,
"Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They
were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through
faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the
natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the
severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to
you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.
And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted
in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from
what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a
cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted
back into their own olive tree.

For your consideration:

While I would be the first to admit there is much work to be done in making sure that those who are Orthodox Christians have actually been evangelized and discipline, Paul's words remind me that I have been grafted on to the Church by baptism, even as the Gentiles have been grafted on to Israel.

As I said yesterday, in looking at the Church and prayerfully reflecting on the need for renewal, we should not allow our zeal to blind us to our debt to those who have gone before us in the faith--even if they have gone before us by only a few years.

St Issac the Syrian says somewhere that zeal is simply a lack of compassion for our neighbor in his weakness. And is Isaiah the prophet we read that the Messiah will quench the smoldering wick or break the bruised reed.

It is to allow zeal to disguise, even from myself,y own lack of compassion and love of self. Certainly, I should continue work to renew the Church--but gently always seeking ways to extend the circle of renewal to others so that they too can come to know their own gifts. Gifts, I should always remember, that were bestowed on each of us at baptism not only for the glory of God, but for our own glory and happiness. As St Irenaeus reminds us: "The glory of God is man fully alive."

How can someone experience this new life if I, in zeal, kill him?

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Print this post